Righting wrongs

Biden’s Justice Department dumps Trump’s parting-shot effort to stymie LGBTQ rights

Joe Biden
Joe Biden (Photo: Shutterstock)

After President Joe Biden, on his first day in office, signed an executive order cementing LGBTQ rights in federal employment, his Department of Justice has taken further steps to overturn some of the Trump administration’s anti-LGBTQ policies.

Just over a week ago – Sunday, January 17 – days before Trump left office, his DOJ issued guidance seeking to reduce the impact of the landmark Supreme Court ruling on LGBTQ employment rights last June (Bostock v. Clayton County).

Related: President Biden signs historic LGBTQ executive order on first day in office

Acting Assistant Attorney General John Daukas authored a 22-page memo that said, “We must hesitate to apply the reasoning of Bostock to different texts, adopted at different times, in different contexts.” In short, it should not be applied across the board.

The memo sought to allow religious organizations to be exempt from the ruling and to continue to be able to discriminate against people based on their sexuality or gender identity. The Department of Justice itself would also be exempt: able to restrict facilities such as restrooms based on biological sex and not gender identity.

By late Friday evening, the memo had been removed from the Department of Justice website.

Lawyer Greg Friel, who has just taken charge of the Justice Department’s civil rights division on a temporary basis, issued a directive revoking the memorandum, according to Politico.

He said that the memo was inconsistent with President Biden’s newly signed executive order protecting LGBTQ federal employees from discrimination.

“I have determined that this memorandum is inconsistent in many respects with the E.O.,” Friel wrote to civil rights division colleagues. “I plan to confer with Department leadership about issuing revised guidance that comports with the policy set forth in the E.O. As part of that process, we will seek the input of Division subject matter experts.”

Related: Joe Biden’s advocacy encouraged him to come out. Now he’s running Biden’s social media

Biden’s executive order last week was described by Alphonso David, the President of the Human Rights Campaign, as the “most substantive LGBT+ executive order in history.”

The order began by stating: “Every person should be treated with respect and dignity and should be able to live without fear, no matter who they are or whom they love. Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports … All persons should receive equal treatment under the law, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation.”

Following last week’s executive order, sources inside the Biden administration claim the President could announce the lifting of Trump’s ban on trans people serving in the military as soon as today.